Eleven Autumn Songs

We are finally getting seasonal weather here in Los Angeles, with the thermometer dropping down into the 50s and 60s. On the east coast and in Europe, people are enjoying the beautiful fall foliage, a symphony of colors.

Here are 11 songs that are about the coming of autumn. Autumn for many is a time of reflection and hunkering down for the winter. My dad used to worry me when he’d say “the shadows are getting longer” suggesting death and decay. Movies like Bergman’s 1970s classic Autumn Sonata can be depressing and sobering. Some of these eleven songs are sad as well. Some of it has to do with shorter days, longer nights, end of summer, colder weather, and the lack of daylight called “seasonal affective disorder” that affect people in northern climes.

Yves Montand’s original version of “Les Feuilles Mortes” (known in English as “Autumn Leaves”) speaks to a summer love affair now over: he says the sun was hotter before, and now the ocean washes over the footsteps of lovers who’ve parted. Ditto for a song “Autumn” by Mia Doi Todd reminiscing over a love affair that ended.

I love the Henry Nemo song “‘Tis Autumn” by Bob Dorough. He was a favorite of beat poets back in the day. Stan Getz’s classic “Early Autumn” gained him fame when he first did it with the Woody Herman band in 1949. This is a later version of the Ralph Burns classic.

Sarah Vaughan sings Vernon Duke ( Vladimir Dukelsky in Minsk, U.S.S.R.) in the classic “Autumn in New York.” It has a bittersweet refrain: “It’s autumn in New York / That brings the promise of new love / Autumn in New York / Is often mingled with pain.”

Two versions of Kurt Weill’s “September Song” follow — a great 1953 version by Django Reinhardt, followed by a rare vocal version by Lou Reed from a 1997 album of Weill songs.

Mia Doi Todd’s song “Autumn” is next, followed by a rare duet by Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. Then the great Jacques Prévert original “Les Feuilles Mortes”, the basis of the popular “Autumn Leaves.” Japanese singer Akiko Yano sings an autumn song, talking about autumn fruits and other autumnal phenomena.

We wrap up Autumn Songs with two vocals by Carmen McRae and baritone Johnny Hartman with John Coltrane, a classic album if there ever was one.





Tom Schnabel